Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Emir of Qatar discuss Gulf, Arab, Islamic, international developments

King Abdullah receives chairmen of Qatari chambers of commerce, industry, chief of Saudi chambers council

Saudi-Algerian talks on anti-terror cooperation

King Abdulaziz City for Science & Technology offers SR1 billion for scientific research activities in Saudi Arabia

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of the State of Qatar held a meeting at the Palace of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Riyadh this evening.

During the meeting, they discussed the latest developments at the Gulf, Arab, Islamic and international arenas and the position of their countries toward them in addition to prospects for cooperation between the two countries and ways of enhancing them in various fields to serve their common interests.

The meeting was attended by Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General; Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh; Prince Abdul-Ilah bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister Interior and Ahmed bin Ali Al-Qahtani, Saudi Ambassador to Qatar.

It was also attended by Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister; Sheikh Mohammed bin Fahd Al Thani, Director of Qatari Amiri Protocol; Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al Thani, President of Qatari Foundation for Information; Ali bin Abdullah Al Mahmoud, Qatari Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and a number of senior Qatari officials.

King Abdullah held at his palace a dinner banquet in honor of Emir Sheikh Hamad of Qatar and the accompanying delegation.

The banquet was attended by Crown Prince Sultan; Prince Fahd bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz; Prince Bandar bin Mohammed bin Abdulrahman; Prince Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud; Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh; Prince Abdul-Ilah bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Interior Minister; a number of other princes; Speaker of the Shoura Council; a number of Ministers, and senior civilian and military officials.

Sheikh Hamad had arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday evening on a visit to the Kingdom.

At King Khalid International Airport, the Qatari Emir was received by King Abdullah, who welcomed him and the accompanying delegation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

He was also received by Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, Governor of Riyadh; Prince Dr. Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Ayyaf Al Miqren, Mayor of Riyadh Region, and a number of Saudi and Qatari officials.

Then, Emir of the State of Qatar shook hands with Prince Abdul-Ilah bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Saud, Minister of Education; Prince Dr. Mansour bin Miteb bin Abdulaziz, Minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs; Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Commander of National Guard for Executive Affairs; Prince Abdulaziz bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, Assistant Chief of General Intelligence; Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Mansour bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Dr. Bandar bin Salman bin Mohammed Al Saud, Advisor to the King; Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Special Advisor to Governor of Riyadh Region; Prince Bandar bin Salman bin Abdulaziz; Speaker of the Shoura Council; a number of Ministers and senior civilian and military officials.

Then, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, accompanied Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in an official motorcade to the palace of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Upon arrival, Emir of the State of Qatar shook hands with Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General and Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Interior.

Emir of Qatar was accompanied by Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al Thani, and a number of high-ranking officials.

King Abdullah had earlier received on Sunday Chairman of Board of Directors of Qatari Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, a Qatari delegation of senior business men and women, Chairman of Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry Salih bin Abdullah Kamil and his two deputies, and chairmen of chambers of commerce and industry in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on occasion of the first meeting of Saudi-Qatari Business Council, organized by the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Riyadh.

Addressing the audience, the King welcomed them, wishing them all success.

The King said, ' Your brothers in Saudi Arabia have been true brothers in good and bad times. I wish you success in your missions and all steps.'

The King urged them on doing charitable actions, assisting the poor everywhere and visiting Islamic countries to be rewarded by Allah.

In his speech, the Chairman of Saudi Council of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Salih bin Abdullah Kamil addressed the audience and said, 'It is an honor for us that you are our leader, and I am here to renew our pledge and allegiance to be the most sincere men as you are proceeding in the progress, development, and national construction'.

He added, 'Receiving us here today, is a proof of how much you are concerned and interested in Saudi business community, and it is enough to mention your generous donation to the costs of building the premises of the Council of Saudi Chambers in Riyadh'.

Furthermore, due to your wise directives and noble approval, the Saudi woman has become a full partner in business community and business activities in particular, and in the whole national spectrum, in general, he said.

In his speech, Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, expressed his thanks and gratitude to the King for the audience considering it as a great honor for them and for the business community in the two countries.

He conveyed to the King the greetings of Qatari leadership and people, wishing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people steady progress and prosperity.

He also congratulated the Kingdom on safe return home and recovery of Crow Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier, Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General after a successful treatment journey.

The audience was attended by Prince Abdulilah bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Prince Mansour bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz, Advisor to the King; Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah bin Ahmed Zainal, and Saudi Ambassador to Qatar Ahmed bin Ali Al-Qahtani.

Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Cooperation Gulf Council (GCC) Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al-Atiyyah stressed that the GCC looks forward to see a transparent, fair and comprehensive election process in Iraq.

In a statement to Qatari News Agency, Al-Atiyyah said that though the GCC countries recognize that the Iraqi elections are an internal affair, they would like to point, from a fraternal position, to the importance of adhering to the criteria mentioned which embodies the principle of peaceful transfer of power as a main pillar of the democratic structure and ensures security and stability in Iraq.

On the other hand, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah received two telephone calls from Sudanese and Chadian Presidents Omar Hassan Al-Basheer and Idriss Deby respectively.

In their calls, they conveyed to the King gratitude and appreciation for his endeavors and good offices to foster rapprochement between Sudan and Chad in the light of their talks in Riyadh and its furtherance in Makkah.

In response, the King thanked them for their good feelings and expressed pleasure for their rapprochement, prayed to God that security and stability would prevail in their two countries, wishing them steady progress and prosperity.

King Abdullah also received Prince Faisal bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, President of Saudi Red Crescent Authority accompanied by members of its board of directors and a number of its staff.

During the audience, Prince Faisal expressed thanks to and appreciation in his own name and on behalf of all the staff of the Authority to the King, for receiving them and for supporting the Authority.

The King listened to an explanation about the Authority's activities inside and outside the Kingdom in general, and in Sudanese province of Darfur, in particular.

On his part, the King praised the Authority's activities and wished its staff all success in their tasks, while the staff listened to his wise directives.

Finally, Prince Faisal presented a commemorative gift to the King.

The audience was attended by a number of princes.

In Riyadh, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, the Chairman of King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and Studies issued on Sunday the following press statement:

At 'Munich Security Conference' on Saturday, Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon indirectly pointed to me saying, ' An envoy of a country possessing a lot of oil refused to sit with me in the same session', adding, 'Saudi Arabia with all its wealth has not given a penny to the Palestinian Authority'.

In reply, Prince Turki Al-Faisal said, 'I had objected to sit with him in the same session, not because he is the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, but because of his rude behavior towards Turkish Ambassador to Israel Ahmet Oguz Celikkol. I had also rejected his claim on my country's support for the Palestinian Authority and reminded him that the Kingdom has provided more than $ 500 million in the last five years to the Palestinian Authority so that it can work.'

'Then Mr. Ayalon had asked me to come to the podium for shaking hands to show that there are no ill-feelings. I had pointed to him to come down from the podium to me. When we stood face to face, he had apologized for what he had said and I replied that I accepted his apology not only for me, but also for the Turkish ambassador,' Prince Turki Al-Faisal disclosed.

'Ayalon was with U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman in the session and at first he objected my refusal to sit down with Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, but after hearing my words, he expressed his regret for misunderstanding what I had done and he commended my immediate clarification of the situation,' Prince Turki Al-Faisal said.

'This event should not be taken out of its context or misunderstood. My strong objections and denunciations of Israel's policies and its measures against the Palestinians have not changed. It is clear that Israel and its Arab neighbors want peace, but it can not be expected that the Arab neighbors tolerate what amounts to theft,' the Prince added.

'Certainly, the Arab neighbors should not be pressed to reward Israel for returning a land that does not belong to it in the first place. Until Israel responds to the appeal of U.S. President Barack Obama to eliminate all settlements, the Israelis should not delude themselves that Saudi Arabia will provide the most precious thing aspired by them, namely recognizing them regionally.

In Algiers, President Abdulaziz Bouteflika of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria received Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of the Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who is currently visiting Algeria.

Prince Naif conveyed to the President the greetings and appreciation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense and Aviation and Inspector General, wishing him permanent good health, happiness and the Algerian people steadily progress and prosperity.

During the meeting, they discussed the distinguished fraternal relations between Saudi Arabia and Algeria and issues of common interest.

The event was attended by Ahmed Ouyahia, Algerian Prime Minister; Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni, Minister of Interior and Local Communities; Abdul Qadir bin Saleh, National Assembly Speaker; Mourad Medelci, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Karim Judy, Minister of Finance and a number of high-ranking officials.

In Cairo, the Secretary-General of Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, stressed that the Organization has at the outset condemned the attack of Houthian infiltrators and their crossing of the border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

In a press conference in Cairo, he said that this attack is contrary to the OIC charter calling for respecting the sovereignty of states, noting that he visited Yemen last November and met with President Ali Abdullah Saleh and Yemeni officials.

Meanwhile, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and European Union (EU) experts’ panel concluded a two-day meeting.

The two parties decided to pass a working program to the GCC/EU ministerial 20th meeting for final approval.

Some 170 experts from the two sides took part in the meeting.

The Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdulrahman Al-Atiyyah, said that Tuesday's coordination meeting finalized a detailed plan that could go to form a road map for joint work between the GCC and the European Union.

The GCC secretary general said progress had been made in negotiations with the European Union for a free trade zone agreement, with consultations continuing to strive toward a final agreement following the removal of obstacles before the two parties. “Export fees,” Al-Atiyyah said, “are still under discussion.”

The Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette quoted Al-Atiyyah as saying that Tuesday’s meeting in Riyadh between specialists from GCC states and the European Union on activating the joint cooperation agreement had put in place a final formula to arrive at a joint project for a comprehensive work plan between Europe and the Gulf.

The Secretary General described cooperation in the proposed work plan as involving economic collaboration through continued cooperation with the GCC central bank and the monetary union of Gulf states to learn from European experience, investment cooperation through encouraging investment exchange between them, as well as cooperation in sea, land and air transport, energy and electricity sectors, higher education and scientific research, setting up programs of higher studies at Gulf universities focusing on specialized modern science subjects such as the peaceful use of nuclear power and genetic engineering.

The gathering will discuss Wednesday forming a joint team to combat money laundering and terrorism funding and submit proposals to the joint work committee, and also address developments in the oil market and the two parties' energy policies.

On the other hand, the Oxford Business Group, in its annual report 2009, said that given its strong ties to the global oil market – and thus the overall global economy – it was inevitable that Saudi Arabia would feel the impact of the worldwide economic downturn. Indeed, while 2009 has been by no means a year of straightforward progress, the Kingdom has fared relatively well thanks to its buffer of capital reserves built up over the oil-boom years.

Moreover, the government has been proactive in warding off the effects of the global crisis – the 2009 budget was the largest in the country’s history and targeted the development of non-oil sectors crucial to long-term development, such as health and education, as well as the funding of expansive infrastructure projects. The government’s proactive fiscal stance has helped the country to continue on its path towards a more diversified economy and growth is expected to rebound quickly in 2010.

With its buoyant performance over the past year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has proven that it remains the economic powerhouse of the Arab world, even during difficult global conditions. While its petroleum resources may be the most prominent feature of its economy, it is by no means the Kingdom’s only asset, and the deflated oil market of 2008-09 had an understandable knock-on effect on non-oil sectors.

Perhaps one of the Kingdom’s most significant indicators is its population – estimated at about 25m – with its relatively high per-capita GDP, creating an enormous demand for a vast array of products and services, especially in the fields of banking, real estate and leisure. While these sectors may have taken a bump in the downturn, growth is expected to normalise promptly in 2010.

Like other Gulf countries, the Kingdom is intent on diversifying its economy – a plan that received a significant boost from 2009’s fiscal expansion programme, funded largely by massive reserves from the five-year oil boom. Devised as a means to combat the effects of the financial crisis and foster the continuing growth of non-oil industries, the latest budget – the largest in the country’s history – focuses on large-scale infrastructure projects and ensuring the continuity of high living standards through health and education investments.

Cement, services and telecoms are also areas of heavy government investment and the latter two are expected to post impressive rates of growth – up to 11% – in 2009, according to Riyadh Bank.

Meanwhile, the oil sector and related downstream industries are still receiving large amounts of government support in a bid to maximise the country’s enormous petroleum reserves.

On the other hand, the Second version of the Saudi Arabian Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, aims to encourage the foundation and growth of technology-based companies and Provide solutions to government needs and encourage competition, launched with participation of governmental and private institutions.

The Two day event which organized by King Abdulaziz city for Science and Technology(KASCT) also aims to Facilitate product development by businesses, Commercialize promising technologies from universities and research centers.

Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammed Al Saud, Vice President of KACST for Research Institutes, lauded in the opening address the SBIR program's role in supporting the innovation system and its contribution in the enhancement of national competence.

He expected that SBIR will contribute to encouraging the establishment and growth of national technology-based companies.

'The program will support the development of technology-based products in Saudi Arabia as well as the innovating and marketing of promising technologies developed in the universities and research centers, catalyze high tech employment in the kingdom in addition to benefiting Small and medium enterprises, he added.

For online application, Prince Turki said it is only via SBIR website, www.sbir-kacst.org. During the opening ceremony, the participants watched a brief review of SBIR current programs in innovation field and discussed the needs of innovative technology in biology and the environment, water technology, oil and energy, space technology and aviation, in addition to nanotechnology, information technology, communications and electronics.

Prince Turki said that Saudi Arabia is now looking to enter the world of solar energy with the launch of the first of a three-stage solar power initiative.

In the first phase, the Saudi government and its agencies, in cooperation with the Riyadh-based KACST, has begun building a desalination plant using solar power. The plant will have a capacity of 10 megawatts and a reverse osmosis plant that utilizes developed technologies in the field of solar energy.

"The solar energy scheme will reduce the cost of producing desalinated water and of generating power for use in the Kingdom, which has also launched a national energy efficiency program," said the Prince.

He said there was a need to promote solar energy projects in the Kingdom and the Gulf as these nations are planning and executing huge industrial, residential and manufacturing projects, according to a report by Arab News.

A total of Nine desalination projects in Saudi Arabia alone that will be implemented at a cost of billions of riyals within a few years are currently either under study or under construction, according to a report from the state-owned Saline Water Conservation Corporation (SWCC), a major participant in the solar energy initiative.

Moreover, the Saudi government's goal is to add 30 gigawatts of generating capacity to its electricity grid by 2010, said a KACST official.

"Emitting about 7,000 watts of energy per square meter over an average of 12 hours every day, the Kingdom's sun is a powerhouse," said Prince Turki Bin Saud bin Mohammad.

Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad said solar power could be a valuable resource and an addition to the energy portfolio of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where most of the more than 40 gigawatts of electricity that is consumed per year is generated by fossil fuels.

'Moreover, the Kingdom's population growth at a rate of about three percent - triple the world average - is also a challenge to deal with when it comes to questions of energy,' he added.

Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad pointed out that a desalination plant with a production capacity of 300,000 cubic meters would be built within three years from the date of completion of the first phase.

'This phase is experimental in nature, while the third phase will involve all agencies and a large quantity of funds in order to set up a number of solar-powered desalination plants after the second phase,' he said.